Posts Tagged ‘Cinequest’

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell, Directors: LIFE IS LOVE

Halfdan Hussey and Kathleen J. Powell are the co-founders of the Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose, CA.  This year they have produced their own film, LIFE IS LOVE, premiering at Cinequest on Wednesday, March 5th.  

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of LIFE IS LOVE, from concept to financing.

HH: My wife, Roz, heard Somaly Mam speak in Hong Kong, when we were dating, and sent me an email about how moved she was by this woman whose philosophy was “life is love.” Roz brought me a business card. Inspired by that email, Kathleen J. Powell and I decided to do a Cinequest Picture The Possibilities (youth empowerment) session in Cambodia…As we developed this, Kathleen and I had the idea to do a feature film on Somaly Mam and her amazing young heroes, which she calls her Voices For Change YouthMarcela Villegas Castenon (line producer and PTP manager) and Kathleen put the relationships together and created the opportunity to make a very special movie. Kathleen and I decided to donate our time to the movie, since we believed very deeply in the stories of these women, and the rest of the costs of the movie were covered via donations from friends, family, PTP supporters and companies.

2Q: Cinequest is hosting the World Premiere of LIFE IS LOVE.  Explain to us how it feels to bring this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?  Does the “home turf” aspect make you more comfortable or more nervous?

HH: Kathleen and I started and run Cinequest because our first feature film (she produced and I directed) gave us a phenomenal experience at the Venice Film Festival and beyond. We wanted to give that back to other artists and to add the technology/empowerment component. What started off as a film festival focusing on discovery and empowerment of artists has led through time to a company with three divisions focusing on the empowerment of artists, innovators, audiences and global youth. PTP is the year-round youth movement where we give youth the tools, processes and inspiration to create their dreams from art to science.

KJP:  It feels incredible to bring LIFE IS LOVE before an audience.  This film is about amazing young heroes that have survived horrors most of us could not possibly imagine.  It is such an honor to be able to bring their stories, their words, their feelings to the world.  If this film were to help one victim realize they too can stand up, survive, and help others, than it will all be worth it.  I think the reaction to the film will be powerful.  I don’t believe it is a film that you can watch and forget about next week.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making LIFE IS LOVE?

HH: The film was an incredible blessing to make so there’s probably thousands of best experiences from the rich visual opportunities in Phnom Penh to the incredible women who shared their stories with such vulnerability and warmth. One of the ‘best’ experiences has been how much they’ve all inspired us from the initial encounters to the crying (many times) and joy in the editing room engaging with them further. A personal best was shooting in the rice fields of Cambodia on my birthday with these wonderful women and the team of Life Is Love. The ‘worst experience?’ Although I run a film and innovation company, I can’t say that the business side of releasing a movie is very easy for any artist.

KJP:  Every moment of the film shoot was rewarding.  We were shooting in the middle of August, it was 115 degrees in the shade.  Forget about trying to fix your hair or put on makeup. There was no complaining and you never thought about it.  We were with AMAZING young women that were sharing their stories.  Every interview we did, I sat there and cried.  Even if another language was being spoken, I could look in their eyes and feel throughout my entire body their pain, their joy.  I did not need the words translated, I knew.  And then when the camera was switched off, and we all were able to recompose ourselves, there was laughter.

My worst experience was the deep understanding I now have of the horrors young children, babies have experienced.  What was done to their childhood, to their bodies, to their foundation as a human being.  That understanding will never go away … and I would never want it to.

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

HH: If you are willing to take a journey into the darkest and most inspirational sides of the human experience…all in one setting.

KJP:  We all experience trauma in our lives.  Some more than others.  From the loss of a loved one, trauma to our bodies, a lost job or relationship, we all are on these journeys thru life.   I LOVE the world of film because it allows you to step outside of yourself and go on a journey, to a place you have never visited, to somewhere that can only be imagined, to another culture, experience, world.  What a great honor that is, to be invited, even if only for a short period of time, to walk in someone else’s shoes.

5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won an Oscar for LIFE IS LOVE.  Give us your acceptance speech.  

HH: I’d use the platform to expose more people to Cinequest Picture The Possibilities and the incredible future we all will have because the new generations can create a better world than the one we currently have…if we help them and let them.

KJP:  In the end it is never about how much money you have in the bank, how many companies you launched, how many awards you have won.  It will always be about your connection with other people.  Did you help someone take that next step?  Did you open a door for them to walk through?  Did you inspire them not to give up?

See LIFE IS LOVE at Cinequest!
View the Trailer!







Originally published at

Three mini-reviews from Cinequest


POLIGAMY:  A harmless, cute little comedy about a man who is a bit hesitant about his girlfriend Lilla’s pregnancy.  Soon after she gets pregnant he starts waking up to different women in his bed… only they all claim to be his girlfriend Lilla, and his best friend keeps confirming this is true.  What is going on?  Well, he soon figures out how to enjoy this little “problem” he has, until he realizes that he sort of misses the original Lilla.  I give it 3+ out of 5 stars, only because there’s nothing terribly groundbreaking.  But I did thoroughly enjoy myself, Sándor Csányi is quite charming as the confused András, and there is a bevy of beautiful women.  If you’re looking for a well made light comedy, this is it.


Everything Will Be Fine

EVERYTHING WILL BE FINE: I’m not even going to TRY to explain this film, but I give it a qualified 4 out of 5 stars.  It’s a conspiracy thriller that has a million twists and turns, involves political intrigue, war atrocities, filmmaking (of all things!!), adoption, and a love story.  It also had a great set of opening credits.  Unfortunately, exhaustion from previous night’s festivities caught up to me during the film, and I started dozing in and out for awhile.  There were so many twists, turns, and questions, that when I finally woke myself up I wanted to leave early because there was no way I’d catch up at that point.  But the exit door was across the theater, so I stayed in my seat.  Luckily, some answers started coming soon, and finally a whole lot is explained at the end.  I give it 4 out of 5 because I liked the surprising ending, and I liked that I was totally stumped throughout the film.  But some audience members who stayed awake were not so happy about being totally confused.  Still, I say take a chance – but make sure you’re awake enough to pay attention!!


80 Days

80 DAYS: My first 5 star film of the festival (besides those I’ve previewed early).  This film is beautiful, poignant, heartbreaking, romantic, and awesome.  If the three stars – Itziar Aizpuru (Axun), José Ramón Argoitia (Juan Mari), and Mariasun Pagoaga (Maite) – had been there at film end I am confident they would have received a standing ovation.  Axun and Maite knew each other as young school girls, and had developed a close bond.  But after having no contact for 50 years they suddenly meet again while visiting others in the same hospital.  Maite has lived her life knowing she was a lesbian, but Axun had been married from a young age and had never considered anything else.  As the feelings develop between them, it is poor Juan Mari, the husband, who will have to deal with the consequences.  It was a very touching film, and should appeal to LGBTQ or straight, men or women, young or old, almost anyone can relate to something in the film.  I loved it.

All three still have more showings coming up, click each link to find the schedule and prices.


Interview with Joseph Sims, cool Aussie with a heart full of …blood.

Local filmmakers aren’t the only ones coming to Cinequest this year.  Joseph Sims, director of the Tarantino-esque film BAD BEHAVIOUR is coming all the way from Australia!  I was able to preview his film which is spectacular and racking up the praise from all over the world.   Here is my interview with him:

Joseph Sims

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BAD BEHAVIOUR, from concept to financing.

Bad Behaviour was originally an extension of a short film I made called Smiling Faces. It taught me a lot but in the end the film was a bit crap. The really cool idea behind it seemed to have been spoiled due to me over-stylizing and messing with shit that didn’t need to be there. The editor on Smiling Faces was a guy called Steven Caldwell and whilst we edited it he encouraged me to start writing a feature. We both seemed to be at a point in our lives where we wanted to commit to a large project. So in early 2009 I set about writing what eventually became Bad Behaviour. I met with Kris Maric who would later come on board as the second of the three producers right before going back to the UK where I finished the screenplay. It turned out pretty awesome and we managed to persuade some bigger names to come on board through Kris. I executive produced and raised all the financing. I originally thought it was going to be a $20,000 uber low budget kinda thing, but when we got John Jarratt (who in 2005 played Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek which found him worldwide recognition and friendship with Quentin Tarantino) and Dwaine Stevenson (from another Aussie cult movie called Gabriel) I was able to raise more money. I’ve worked as a bookkeeper as a means to an end since I left school and was able to pitch the project to some clients. Suddenly we got a nice chunk of cash to get this thing made and from there it snowballed.

2Q: It appears that the film has been screened at other festivals; how has it been received? Do audiences respond differently at some festivals than they do at others?

We’re now known as ‘that film where the scary man blood-voms into that chicks mouth’ which I’m extremely proud of. Who wouldn’t be? We wanted to shock audiences and stand out – which is generally what every film maker wants to do so it was our intention to take it as far as we could with every aspect of the film: the drama, the violence, the humour, the dialogue. (more…)

Interview with Jarrod Whaley, director of THE GLASS SLIPPER

And a third repeat Cinequest local! Jarrod Whaley moved to Palo Alto from Tennessee two years ago, just in time to premiere his first feature, HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE. This year he is back at Cinequest with THE GLASS SLIPPER, a film that also stars several Bay Area locals.

Jarrod Whaley

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of THE GLASS SLIPPER, from concept to financing.

In college I read a Flaubert novella called Un Cœur Simple (A Simple Heart in English), and was quite taken with the austerity of both the central character and the narrative style. Flaubert’s Felicity is a kind of pious naïf who fails at every turn to take charge of the trajectory of her own life; she eventually slides into the deepest depths of penury–and then death–because she trusts that the “Holy Spirit” (whom she confuses with a stuffed parrot) will save her. It’s a rather fatalistic story, and it lacks the typical character arc of almost all Western literature. She doesn’t change; she doesn’t learn (which is not at all to say that the reader can’t learn from her mistakes). I think most of us end up living a similar kind of life in one way or another, and that the standard structure of our narratives might therefore have a certain willful falseness at its core.

I’ve wanted to adapt the novella into a film for about seven years, and The Glass Slipper is the end result of that. Mind you, my film is almost nothing like the novella- there’s a character called Felicity, and I’ve certainly taken some cues from Flaubert in creating her, but there’s much going on in my film that’s completely unrelated to the ostensible “source material.” A large part of the film deals with another character who fails also to improve his lot, and we watch his family crumble while he flounders around. This thread is entirely mine.

Though we’ve recently, through more traditional channels, secured additional funding with which to finish the film, the lion’s share of the actual production phase was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. I’ve found it to be not only a great source of funding, but also an incredible way to build a community around the film from day one.

2Q: You were at Cinequest last year with your first feature which you had filmed in Tennessee. What differences were there between filming in Tennessee vs. Palo Alto, CA? Pros and cons? (more…)

Interview with Jeremy M. Inman, director of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN.

Jeremy M. Inman is another local filmmaker making a repeat visit to Cinequest. A Fremont native and SJSU alumni, Jeremy brought his film to Cinequest last year for a rough draft preview. This year, film complete, he returns to premiere where the fans already love him. This is our interview:

Jeremy M. Inman

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of SUPER HERO PARTY CLOWN, from concept to financing.

SHPC was born out of my desire to tell a comic book-inspired story on an indie budget. The content is ripe with potential for dynamic visual storytelling and is inherently dramatic. I knew that choosing SHPC as my first attempted feature would give me plenty of opportunities to display my range as a director both visually and emotionally.

I grew up reading comic books, so the conventions of the genre speak to me very clearly. Concepts like duality, sense of purpose, conflicts between responsibility and personal desire, and knowing what’s right or wrong are easy to manipulate and relate to in a comic book setting. I think everyone struggles to balance certain aspects of their life; in SHPC, main character Eugene must reconcile the two halves of his personality – one with a clear notion of his duty as a pretend superhero (his “Arachnid-Man” persona), and the other his willingness to give or do anything to be with Emily, his love.

The film started as a short somewhere in the vicinity of four years ago now. I had a clear plan to use the completed short to market my feature-length script (at the time it was already in the works) to Barnaby Dallas. Completing the short wound up not playing too big of a role in the SJSU film department’s ultimate decision to green light the feature, but it helped me shape the concept. The feature script made the rounds at a few festivals; it was a finalist at the CSU Media Arts Festival and it won second place at the Broadcast Education Association’s international screenplay competition. By then the script was vetted enough for Barnaby and Spartan Film Studios to want to produce, particularly since the bulk of the rewriting that would shape the shooting script happened in Barnaby’s screenwriting class (which I took for a second time to ensure that he would have to read the script). (more…)

Interview with Vijay Rajan, director of BASE EMOTIONS

The Cinequest Film Festival starts in one week, and right now there are hundreds of local writers, bartenders, theater operators, baristas, hotel clerks and wait staff (along with thousands of film lovers) who are busily preparing for this special time of year in San Jose.  But there are also quite a few local filmmakers who have been working like crazy to get their films ready for viewing.  It must be a great feeling to have your film premiering in your hometown – and also very scary.  We’ve sat down to interview a few of these filmmakers, and we’ll be posting the interviews throughout the week.

First up is Vijay Rajan, a local filmmaker who graduated from Santa Teresa High School and San Jose State University.  BASE EMOTIONS is not the first film Vijay has brought to Cinequest, and I’m sure it won’t be his last.  This is one of my favorite interviews ever, as it shows how much heart and soul is put into these films, and I think Vijay really represents what Cinequest is all about.

Vijay Rajan

1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of BASE EMOTIONS (playing at CQ with The Sentiment of the Flesh), from concept to financing.

“Base Emotions” is a film that came to me at a time when I was really struggling with the question of faith. How do we trust in people when we have been hurt by them? How do we trust in God — if we do — if we have been hurt by Him? I was considering the word “faithless” one day and was struck by the fact that it had two meanings: one of infidelity, and the other of not believing in something. I wanted to write a piece that would bring into direct conflict two characters who each were faithless in those different ways — one who was an adulterer and another who simply did not know how to believe. It just grew from there. Ultimately, it ended up being a character piece about a maddening woman named Katie, probably the first fully realized female character I’ve ever managed to successfully write; I know her incredibly well, and yet she always simultaneously surprises me. She is someone I hope the audience will desire, despise, be repulsed by, feel compassion for, and then ultimately will come to understand. This is because the film is also to an extent about judgment; we judge other people so easily, yet never seek to understand their perspectives, to realign our thinking to their priorities, their punishments, their sense of morality. In the course of one night, all of this plays out. Can the character of Justin, and through him the audience, seek to understand this woman whose behavior just seems to be so contrary to many of our own conceptions of morality?

Once I’d written it, I called up the guys who I’d worked with since film school, and in our various ways, we found our ways into the project. The entire short film, 22 minutes long, takes place in one hotel room with only two characters. In terms of financing, we found a willing partner and executive producer named Quoc Peyrot who believed in the project and basically donated all the camera equipment for the production. In terms of the actors and the set, it was all very low budget; my crew basically consisted of people who were passionate about this project and the filmmaking process. It was during this time that we basically went from being guys who worked together in film school to being a film company. Together, we bought a jib crane. Together, we paid for the location and the necessary supporting equipment. Together, we made the project work.

I have done work in the past I’ve been proud of, but “Base Emotions” is really the first project for our company — Siren Song Creations. And it’s really an honor to be able to say that now that it’s finally done, it will be having its world premiere at a film festival that is just a block down the street from where we filmed it at the Fairmont Hotel, and maybe three blocks down the street from the school where we as a group learned our craft and met each other. We are about as local as local filmmakers can get; yet we take a certain pride in the fact that our work is absolutely universal in quality. We just believe in the strength of storytelling. You can sink millions into a movie, but I hope our film — low-budget as it is — just has characters and a situation that will churn something visceral in our audiences, something uncomfortable but familiar, and something ultimately hopeful. I mean, it’s a question all of us deal with in our lives, right? How do we forgive?

2Q: You have attended Cinequest several times before as both filmmaker and film viewer. Explain your favorite parts of our film festival.

God, I love Cinequest. That’s the truth. I’ve had some bad years in my life recently, and Cinequest helps to (more…)

March theater show round-up – and films galore as well!

February will be a tough month to beat, quality-wise, but March definitely wins the quantity category – mainly due to Cinequest.  Will the show quality be just as good next month?  I’m betting YES.  Here are the shows that Metblogs is planning to review for you in March – get your tickets now!!

March 1 – March 13
Interactive Schedule
Join Cinequest as they unveil 173 memorable films, soul stirring events and amazing innovations in palatial venues. Cinequest will fuse the community of film lovers with film creators, holding Q&A sessions and forums with the seven hundred (700) plus artists expected in attendance. Experience so much more than a film festival.

As always, Metblogs will be there to cover every aspect of this film festival, and we strongly urge you to follow along and join us.  It’s the most fun we have all year!!


March 10 – March 27
Hillbarn Theatre
Separate Tables is set in a shabby genteel hotel on England’s south coast where the residents, for the most part, dine alone—at separate tables.  The story is about sexual repression, understanding and forgiveness.  Hillbarn’s take on it, although true to the script, pokes a little fun at the repressed mores of the 1950s while at the same time understanding that the glimpse is real.  The original movie contained blockbuster actors Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth and David Niven—who won an Oscar for his portrayal.  Our version will make you laugh about some of the outmoded conventions in our past.

Hillbarn has the best track record of great shows so far.  I have no doubt this show will be a must-see!


March 15 – March 20
Broadway San Jose
FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, the Tony Award® winning musical that has captured the hearts of people all over the world with its universal appeal, embarks on its North American Tour.
Based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF has been lauded by critics again and again, and won the hearts of people all around the world. Filled with a rousing, heartwarming score, which includes “Tradition,” “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” “If I Were A Rich Man” and “Sunrise, Sunset,” FIDDLER ON THE ROOF is a timeless classic.
No other musical has so magically woven music, dance, poignancy and laughter into such an electrifying and unforgettable experience. Relive a glorious tradition of the musical theatre with FIDDLER ON THE ROOF.

I’ve actually never seen the show or the film before, and I’m looking forward to my Fiddler introduction in March!

March 24 – April 17
San Jose Repertory
Two brilliant women, centuries apart, push the boundaries of science while grappling with motherhood in this theatrically adventurous comedy.
Physicist Émilie du Châtelet, lover of famous French philosopher Voltaire, and a young poet, worries about her fate after she unexpectedly becomes pregnant. Driven by fear and ambition, she races to publish her theories based on Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. Linked together by scientific legacy and maternal instincts, accomplished astrophysicist Olivia and her husband, Peter, want to conceive but cannot. Olivia’s attention turns to her new “child,” a planet she’s discovered in the midst of hiring a quirky and free-spirited surrogate. This touching and whimsical tale leaves us asking: Does the birth of a child ultimately mean as much to the world as the birth of an idea?

It’s the West Coast Premiere of the American Theatre Critics Association “Best New Play” 2010, and this show sounds intriguing!

Which shows are on YOUR calendar?

Cinequest Maverick Meet-up — Lights, Camera, ACTION!!

The 2010 Film Festival has ended but the Summer Maverick Meet-ups have just begun!

Have fun and meet new and old friends!

Do you miss Cinequest?  Miss seeing your friends and fellow film-goers?  Then head over to E+O Trading Company on Friday, May 14.  From 5pm – 7pm anyone and everyone who loves Cinequest, independent film or film festivals in general are invited to our informal gathering of fun and friendship.

What will happen at this meet-up?  We don’t know!  But past meet-ups have had quizzes, games, prizes, special guests and even an Osama Bin Laden impersonator.  At EVERY meet-up there have been old friends, new friends and potential friends.  New faces and familiar faces.  Kathleen Powell and Halfdan Hussey.  And no matter what, great food and drinks.

It is okay if you have never attended the Cinequest Film Festival before, but if you love film you will be in your element.  If you would like to meet some people behind the scenes at Cinequest this is the place to be.   And if you like Happy Hours and meeting new people – this is where you should spend your Friday evening!

Come down to E+O Trading Company any time between 5 and 7pm on Friday, and we will see you there!

Date: Friday, May 14, 2010
Time: 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Location: E+O Trading Co.
Street: 96 South 1st Street
City/Town: San Jose, CA



NO TOMORROW is a thought provoking documentary that covers a lot of ground and argues a lot of different ideas.  Its only weakness is that it perhaps presents a few too many ideas and does not have the correct case to prove their arguments.

AGING OUT is a documentary brought by the same filmmakers to Cinequest in 2004.  It was about three teenagers who are aging out of the foster care system and the trials and tribulations they were then facing.  The film focused on the resilience of each teen and chose to look positively on their future prospects.

But soon after that film was completed one of the teens, Risa Bejarano, was brutally murdered.  The killer was caught, prosecuted and found guilty.  This is where NO TOMORROW comes in.  For the penalty phase of the trial the prosecution wanted to (and did) show the jury AGING OUT as a way of humanizing Risa and pushing the jury toward a death penalty decision.  The filmmakers were not happy about having their film used to give death to an 18 year old when their original purpose was to bring something positive into the world.  And so the documentary brings its arguments. (more…)



The following review is written by a person who neither knows nor cares about fast cars (or slow cars, or vehicles in general).  So keep that in mind.

That said, I am not really sure what to say about LOW LIGHTS.  I think I kind of liked it, even though I mostly hated it until the halfway point.

Twenty minutes in, my first note says “I have no idea what’s going on.”  And it was true, there were two men who just seemed to be chatting ABOUT NOTHING, and they were driving around.  Chatting.  About nothing.  And then there was a woman who did not speak AT ALL and kind of just hung around the gas station snack shop until she got picked up by some young punks in one of those (lame) cars with the (really stupid) doors that raise up to open.  Oh, did I say that in my out loud voice? (more…)

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